Useful Information About Israel

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Founded in 1948, Israel the world’s only Jewish State and is made up of more than 70 different nationalities and cultures.

Israel has a growing population and has taken in almost 1.2 million immigrants in the past 10 years, expanding the country’s industry and work force from 1.65 million in 1990 to 3 million in 2010.

As a result Israel now has a population of more than 7.5 million.

The country is known for its remarkable achievements in agriculture and agrotechnology, irrigation, solar energy and in many hi-tech industries and start-up companies.

Israel is a diverse open market economy and as a fairly young state it is recognised as a developed market by several key indices. In May 2010, as an acknowledgement of Israel’s emergence as an established economy of the first class, Israel became a member of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Israel has shown great resilience during the last global economic crisis in 2010 and was ranked 1st at “Resilience of the Economy” Index (part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report).

 

Geography and Climate

 

Israel is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. It lies between latitudes 29° and 34° N, and longitudes 34° and 36° E.

The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. However Israel is so narrow that the exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean is double the land area of the country. The total area under Israeli law, when including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi), and the total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi). Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the inland fertile Jezreel Valley, mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel and toward the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to seventy percent of the nation's population. East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,039 mi) Great Rift Valley.

The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. Further south is the Arabah, ending with the Gulf of Eilat, part of the Red Sea. Unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula are makhteshim, or erosion cirques. The largest makhtesh in the world is Ramon Crater in the Negev, which measures 40 by 8 kilometers (25 by 5 mi). A report on the environmental status of the Mediterranean basin states that Israel has the largest number of plant species per square meter of all the countries in the basin.

Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The area of Beersheba and the Northern Negev has a semi-arid climate with hot summers, cool winters and fewer rainy days than the Mediterranean climate. The Southern Negev and the Arava areas have desert climate with very hot and dry summers, and mild winters with few days of rain. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C/128.7 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern Jordan river valley.

From May to September, rain in Israel is rare. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed various water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Israelis also take advantage of the considerable sunlight available for solar energy, making Israel the leading nation in solar energy use per capita (practically every house uses solar panels for water heating).

Four different phytogeographic regions exist in Israel, due to the country's location between the temperate and the tropical zones, bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the desert in the east. For this reason the flora and fauna of Israel is extremely diverse. There are 2,867 known species of plants found in Israel. Of these, at least 253 species are introduced and non-native. As of May 2007, there are 190 Israeli nature reserves.

 

Politics

 

Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic republic with universal suffrage. A member of parliament supported by a parliamentary majority becomes the prime minister—usually this is the chair of the largest party. The prime minister is the head of government and head of the cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership of the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which in practice has resulted in coalition governments.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset can dissolve a government earlier. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an uncodified constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws. The president of Israel is head of state, with limited and largely ceremonial duties.

 

Legal System

 

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier is the Supreme Court, located in Jerusalem; it serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against the decisions of state authorities. Although Israel supports the goals of the International Criminal Court, it has not ratified the Rome Statute, citing concerns about the ability of the court to remain free from political impartiality.

Israel's legal system combines three legal traditions: English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries. Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges. Administration of Israel's courts (both the "General" courts and the Labor Courts) is carried by the Administration of Courts, situated in Jerusalem. Both General and Labor courts are paperless courts: the storage of court files, as well as court decisions, are conducted electronically. Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel. Israel is the only country in the region ranked "Free" by Freedom House based on the level of civil liberties and political rights; the "Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories" was ranked "Not Free." In 2012, Israel proper was ranked 92nd according to Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index – the highest ranking in the region.

 

Administrative Divisions

 

The State of Israel is divided into six main administrative districts, known as mehozot – Center, Haifa, Jerusalem, North, Southern, and Tel Aviv Districts. Districts are further divided into fifteen sub-districts known as nafot, which are themselves partitioned into fifty natural regions.

For statistical purposes, the country is divided into three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv metropolitan area (population 3,206,400), Haifa metropolitan area (population 1,021,000), and Beer Sheva metropolitan area (population 559,700). Israel's largest municipality, both in population and area, is Jerusalem with 773,800 residents in an area of 126 square kilometers (49 sq mi) (in 2009).

Israeli government statistics on Jerusalem include the population and area of East Jerusalem, which is widely recognized as part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation. Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon LeZion rank as Israel's next most populous cities, with populations of 393,900, 265,600, and 227,600 respectively.

 

Foreign Relations

 

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 157 countries and has 100 diplomatic missions around the world. Only three members of the Arab League have normalized relations with Israel: Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively, and Mauritania opted for full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Despite the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Israel is still widely considered an enemy country among Egyptians. Under Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are enemy countries and Israeli citizens may not visit them without permission from the Ministry of the Interior.

The Soviet Union and the United States were the first two countries to recognize the State of Israel, having declared recognition roughly simultaneously. The United States may regard Israel as its primary ally in the Middle East, based on "common democratic values, religious affinities, and security interests". The United States has provided $68 billion in military assistance and $32 billion in grants to Israel since 1967, under the Foreign Assistance Act (period beginning 1962), more than any other country for that period until 2003. Their bilateral relations are multidimensional and the United States is the principal proponent of the Arab-Israeli peace process. The United States and Israeli views differ on some issues, such as the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and settlements.

India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992 and has fostered a strong military, technological and cultural partnership with the country since then. According to an international opinion survey conducted in 2009 on behalf of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, India is the most pro-Israel country in the world. India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest military partner of India after the Russian Federation. India is also the third-largest Asian economic partner of Israel and the two countries enjoy extensive space technology ties. India became the top source market for Israel from Asia in 2010 with 41,000 tourist arrivals in that year.

Germany's strong ties with Israel include cooperation on scientific and educational endeavors and the two states remain strong economic and military partners. Under the reparations agreement, as of 2007 Germany had paid 25 billion euros in reparations to the Israeli state and individual Israeli holocaust survivors. The UK has kept full diplomatic relations with Israel since its formation having had two visits from heads of state in 2007. Relations between the two countries were also made stronger by former prime minister Tony Blair's efforts for a two state resolution. The UK is seen as having a "natural" relationship with Israel on account of the British Mandate for Palestine. Iran had diplomatic relations with Israel under the Pahlavi dynasty but withdrew its recognition of Israel during the Islamic Revolution. Although Turkey and Israel did not establish full diplomatic relations until 1991, Turkey has cooperated with the State since its recognition of Israel in 1949. Turkey's ties to the other Muslim-majority nations in the region have at times resulted in pressure from Arab and Muslim states to temper its relationship with Israel. Relations between Turkey and Israel took a downturn after the Gaza War and Israel's raid of the Gaza flotilla. IHH, which organized the flotilla, is a Turkish charity that some believe has ties to Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

Relation between Israel and Greece have improved since 1995 due to the decline of Israeli-Turkish relations. The two countries have a defence cooperation agreement and in 2010, the Israeli Air Force hosted Greece’s Hellenic Air Force in a joint exercise at the Uvda base. The joint Cyprus-Israel oil and gas explorations centered on the Leviathan gas field are also an important factor for Greece, given its strong links with Cyprus. Israel is the second largest importer of Greek products in the Middle East. In 2010, the Greek Prime minister George Papandreou made an official visit to Israel after many years, in order to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

Israel and Cyprus have a number of bilateral agreements and many official visits have taken place between the two countries. The countries have ties on energy, agricultural, military and tourism matters. The prospects of joint exploitation of oil and gas fields off Cyprus, as well as cooperation in the world's longest sub-sea electric power cable has strengthened relations between the countries.

Azerbaijan is one of the few majority Muslim countries to develop bilateral strategic and economic relations with Israel. The relationship includes cooperation in trade and security matters and cultural and educational exchanges. Azerbaijan supplies Israel with a substantial amount of its oil needs, and Israel has helped modernize the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. In the spring of 2012, the two countries reportedly concluded an arms deal worth $1.6 billion. In 2005, Azerbaijan was Israel's fifth largest trading partner.In Africa, Ethiopia is Israel's main and closest ally in the continent due to common political, religious and security interests. Israel provides expertise to Ethiopia on irrigation projects and thousands of Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) live in Israel.

As a result of the 2009 Gaza War, Mauritania, Qatar, Bolivia, and Venezuela suspended political and economic ties with Israel.

 

Military

 

Israel has the highest ratio of defense spending to GDP and as a percentage of the budget of all developed countries. The Israel Defense Forces is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Minister of Defense. The IDF consist of the army, air force and navy. It was founded during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War by consolidating paramilitary organizations—chiefly the Haganah—that preceded the establishment of the state. The IDF also draws upon the resources of the Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), which works with the Mossad and Shabak. The Israel Defense Forces have been involved in several major wars and border conflicts in its short history, making it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world. Most Israelis are drafted into the military at the age of 18. Men serve three years and women two to three years. Following mandatory service, Israeli men join the reserve forces and usually do up to several weeks of reserve duty every year until their forties. Most women are exempt from reserve duty. Arab citizens of Israel (except the Druze) and those engaged in full-time religious studies are exempt from military service, although the exemption of yeshiva students has been a source of contention in Israeli society for many years. An alternative for those who receive exemptions on various grounds is Sherut Leumi, or national service, which involves a program of service in hospitals, schools and other social welfare frameworks. As a result of its conscription program, the IDF maintains approximately 176,500 active troops and an additional 445,000 reservists.

The nation's military relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems designed and manufactured in Israel as well as some foreign imports. Since 1967, the United States has been a particularly notable foreign contributor of military aid to Israel: the US is expected to provide the country with $3.15 billion per year from 2013–2018. The Arrow missile is one of the world's few operational anti-ballistic missile systems. Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has developed a network of reconnaissance satellites. The success of the Ofeq program has made Israel one of seven countries capable of launching such satellites. Since its establishment, Israel has spent a significant portion of its gross domestic product on defense. In 1984, for example, the country spent 24% of its GDP on defense. Today, that figure has dropped to 7.3%. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons as well as chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Israel has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity toward its nuclear capabilities. Since the Gulf War in 1991, when Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles, all homes in Israel are required to have a reinforced security room impermeable to chemical and biological substances.

The IDF has also been deployed on humanitarian missions, usually involving rescue workers and medical personnel, along with relief workers and body identifiers from ZAKA and the Israel Police. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a rescue team was dispatched to Haiti, which consisted of 40 doctors, 20 nurses and rescue workers, and two rescue planes loaded with medical equipment and a field hospital with X-ray equipment, intensive care units, and operating rooms. Other recent recipients of aid include Japan (a medical team after the 2011 tsunami), Congo 2008, Sri Lanka 2005 (tsunami), India and El Salvador 2001 (earthquakes), Ethiopia 2000, Turkey 1998 (earthquake), Kosovo 1999 (refugees) and Rwanda 1994 (refugees).

Israel is consistently rated very low in the Global Peace Index, ranking 145th out of 153 nations for peacefulness in 2011.

 

Economy

 

Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. In 2010, it joined the OECD. The country is ranked 3rd in the region on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America.

In 2010, Israel ranked 17th among of the world's most economically developed nations, according to IMD's World Competitiveness Yearbook. The Israeli economy was ranked first as the world's most durable economy in the face of crises, and was also ranked first in the rate of research and development center investments.

The Bank of Israel was ranked first among central banks for its efficient functioning, up from the 8th place in 2009. Israel was also ranked as the worldwide leader in its supply of skilled manpower. The Bank of Israel holds $78 billion of foreign-exchange reserves.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling $47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include electronics, software, computerized systems, communications technology, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, fruits, chemicals, military technology, and cut diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached $42.86 billion, and by 2010 they had reached $80.5 billion a year.

Israel is a leading country in the development of solar energy. Israel is a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. According to the OECD, Israel is also ranked 1st in the world in expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) as a percentage of GDP. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received military aid from the United States, as well as economic assistance in the form of loan guarantees, which now account for roughly half of Israel's external debt. Israel has one of the lowest external debts in the developed world, and is a net lender in terms of net external debt (the total value of assets vs. liabilities in debt instruments owed abroad), which as of 2011 stood at a surplus of US $58.7 billion.

Days of working time in Israel are Sunday through Thursday (for 5 a days 'week'), or Friday (for 6 a days 'week'). In observance of Shabbat, in places where Friday is a work day and the majority of population is Jewish, Friday is a "short day", usually lasting till 14:00 in the winter, or 16:00 in the summer. Several proposals have been raised to adjust the work week with the majority of the world, and make Sunday a non-working day, while extending working time of other days, and/or replacing Friday with Sunday as a work day .

 

Transport

 

Israel has 18,096 kilometers (11,244 mi) of paved roads, and 2.4 million motor vehicles. The number of motor vehicles per 1,000 persons was 324, relatively low with respect to developed countries. Israel has 5,715 buses on scheduled routes, operated by several carriers, the largest of which is Egged, serving most of the country. Railways stretch across 949 kilometers (590 mi) and are operated solely by government-owned Israel Railways (All figures are for 2008). Following major investments beginning in the early-to-mid 1990s, the number of train passengers per year has grown from 2.5 million in 1990, to 35 million in 2008; railways are also used to transport 6.8 million tons of cargo, per year.

Israel is served by two international airports, Ben Gurion International Airport, the country's main hub for international air travel near Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ovda Airport in the south, as well as several small domestic airports. Ben Gurion, Israel's largest airport, handled over 12.1 million passengers in 2010.

On the Mediterranean coast, Haifa Port is the country's oldest and largest port, while Ashdod Port is one of the few deep water ports in the world built on the open sea. In addition to these, the smaller Port of Eilat is situated on the Red Sea, and is used mainly for trading with Far East countries.

 

Science and technology

 

Israel's eight public universities are subsidized by the state. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel's oldest university, houses the Jewish National and University Library, the world's largest repository of books on Jewish subjects. The Hebrew University is consistently ranked among world's 100 top universities by the prestigious ARWU academic ranking. Other major universities in the country include the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University (TAU), Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, The Open University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Israel's seven research universities (excluding the Open University) are consistently ranked among top 500 in the world. Israel has produced six Nobel Prize-winning scientists since 2002 and publishes among the most scientific papers per capita of any country in the world.

Israel has embraced solar energy, its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world. Over 90% of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita in the world. According to government figures, the country saves 8% of its electricity consumption per year because of its solar energy use in heating. The high annual incident solar irradiance at its geographic latitude creates ideal conditions for what is an internationally renowned solar research and development industry in the Negev Desert.

Israel is one of the world's technological leaders in water technology. In 2011, its water technology industry was worth around $2 billion a year with annual exports of products and services in the tens of millions of dollars. The ongoing shortage of water in the country has spurred innovation in water conservation techniques, and a substantial agricultural modernisation, drip irrigation, was invented in Israel. Israel is also at the technological forefront of desalination and water recycling. The Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant, the largest in the world, was voted 'Desalination Plant of the Year' in the Global Water Awards in 2006. Israel hosts an annual Water Technology Exhibition and Conference (WaTec) that attracts thousands of people from across the world. By the end of 2013, 85 percent of the country's water consumption will be from reverse osmosis. As a result of innovations in reverse osmosis technology, Israel is set to become a net exporter of water in the coming years. Israel has led the world in stem-cell research papers per capita since 2000. In addition, Israeli universities are among 100 top world universities in mathematics (Hebrew University, TAU and Technion), physics (TAU, Hebrew University and Weizmann Institute of Science), chemistry (Technion and Weizmann Institute of Science), computer science (Weizmann Institute of Science, Technion, Hebrew University, TAU and BIU) and economics (Hebrew University and TAU).

Israel has a modern electric car infrastructure involving a countrywide network of recharging stations to facilitate the charging and exchange of car batteries. It is thought that this will lower Israel's oil dependency and lower the fuel costs of hundreds of Israel's motorists that use cars powered only by electric batteries. The Israeli model is being studied by several countries and being implemented in Denmark and Australia.

In 2009 Israel was ranked 2nd among 20 top countries in space sciences by Thomson Reuters agency. Since 1988 Israel Aerospace Industries have indigenously designed and built at least 13 commercial, research and spy satellites. Most were launched to orbit from Israeli air force base "Palmachim" by the Shavit space launch vehicle. Some of Israel's satellites are ranked among the world's most advanced space systems. In 2003, Ilan Ramon became Israel's first astronaut, serving as payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

 

Demographics

 

In 2012, Israel's population was an estimated 7,900,600 people, of whom 5,955,200 are Jews.

Arab citizens of Israel comprise 20.5% of the country's total population.

Over the last decade, large numbers of migrant workers from Romania, Thailand, China, Africa and South America have settled in Israel. Exact figures are unknown, as many of them are living in the country illegally, but estimates run in the region of 200,000. As of June 2012, approximately 60,000 African migrants have entered Israel.

Retention of Israel's population since 1948 is about even or greater, when compared to other countries with mass immigration. Emigration from Israel (yerida) to other countries, primarily the United States and Canada, is described by demographers as modest, but is often cited by Israeli government ministries as a major threat to Israel's future.

As of 2009, over 300,000 Israeli citizens live in West Bank settlements such as Ma'ale Adumim and Ariel, and communities that predated the establishment of the State but were re-established after the Six-Day War, in cities such as Hebron and Gush Etzion. 18,000 Israelis live in Golan Heights settlements. In 2011, there were 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem. The total number of Israeli settlers is over 500,000 (6.5% of the Israeli population). Approximately 7,800 Israelis lived in settlements in the Gaza Strip, until they were evacuated by the government as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.

Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people and is often referred to as a Jewish state. The country's Law of Return grants all Jews and those of Jewish lineage the right to Israeli citizenship. Just over three quarters, or 75.5%, of the population are Jews from a diversity of Jewish backgrounds. Approximately 68% of Israeli Jews are Israeli-born, 22% are immigrants from Europe and the Americas, and 10% are immigrants from Asia and Africa (including the Arab World). Jews who left or fled Arab and Muslim countries and their descendants, known as Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, constitute approximately 50% of Jewish Israelis. Jews from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and their Israeli-born descendants, or Ashkenazi Jews, form most of the rest of the Jewish population.

 

Languages

 

Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population, and Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority.

Many Israelis communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are broadcast in this language and English is taught from the early grades in elementary school. As a country of immigrants, many languages can be heard on the streets. Due to mass immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia (some 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel), Russian and Amharic are widely spoken. Between 1990 and 1994, the Russian immigration increased Israel's population by twelve percent. More than one million Russian-speaking immigrants arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union states between 1990 and 2004. French is spoken by around 700,000 Israelis, mostly originating from France and North Africa (see Maghrebi Jews).

 

Religion

 

Israel and the Palestinian territories comprise the major part of the Holy Land, a region of significant importances to all Abrahamic religions – Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha'is.

The religious affiliation of Israeli Jews varies widely: a social survey for those over the age of 20 indicates that 55% say they are "traditional", while 20% consider themselves "secular Jews", 17% define themselves as "Religious Zionists"; 8% define themselves as "Haredi Jews".While the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, represented only 5% of Israel's population in 1990, they are expected to represent more than one-fifth of Israel's Jewish population by 2028.

Making up 16% of the population, Muslims constitute Israel's largest religious minority. About 2% of the population are Christian and 1.5% are Druze. The Christian population primarily comprises Arab Christians, but also includes post-Soviet immigrants and the Foreign Labourers of multi-national origins and followers of Messianic Judaism, considered by most Christians and Jews to be a form of Christianity. Members of many other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, maintain a presence in Israel, albeit in small numbers. Out of more than one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union in Israel, about 300,000 are considered not Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinate.The city of Jerusalem is of special importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians as it is the home of sites that are pivotal to their religious beliefs, such as the Israeli-controlled Old City that incorporates the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other locations of religious importance in Israel are Nazareth (holy in Christianity as the site of the Annunciation of Mary), Tiberias and Safed (two of the Four Holy Cities in Judaism), the White Mosque in Ramla (holy in Islam as the shrine of the prophet Saleh), and the Church of Saint George in Lod (holy in Christianity and Islam as the tomb of Saint George or Al Khidr).

A number of other religious landmarks are located in the West Bank, among them Joseph's tomb in Shechem, the birthplace of Jesus and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith and the Shrine of the Báb are located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa and the leader of the faith is buried in Acre. Apart from maintenance staff, there is no Bahá'í community in Israel, although it is a destination for pilgrimages. Bahá'í staff in Israel do not teach their faith to Israelis following strict policy.

 

Education

 

Israel has a school life expectancy of 15 years and a literacy rate of 97.1% according to the United Nations. The State Education Law, passed in 1953, established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra orthodox, communal settlement schools, and Arab schools. The public secular is the largest school group, and is attended by the majority of Jewish and non-Arab pupils in Israel. Most Arabs send their children to schools where Arabic is the language of instruction.

Education is compulsory in Israel for children between the ages of three and eighteen. Schooling is divided into three tiers – primary school (grades 1–6), middle school (grades 7–9), and high school (grades 10–12) – culminating with Bagrut matriculation exams. Proficiency in core subjects such as mathematics, the Hebrew language, Hebrew and general literature, the English language, history, Biblical scripture and civics is necessary to receive a Bagrut certificate. In Arab, Christian and Druze schools, the exam on Biblical studies is replaced by an exam on Muslim, Christian or Druze heritage. In 2003, over half of all Israeli twelfth graders earned a matriculation certificate. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University are ranked among the world's top 100 universities by Times Higher Education magazine. Israel ranks third in the world in the number of academic degrees per capita (20 percent of the population).

 

Tourism 


Tourism in Israel is one of Israel's major sources of income, with 3.45 million tourist arrivals in 2010. Israel offers a plethora of historical and religious sites, beach resorts, archaeological tourism, heritage tourism and ecotourism. Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in the world. In 2009, the two most visited sites were the Western Wall and the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; the most popular paid tourist attraction is Masada. Most tourists visit from the United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands, India, South Korea, Australia, and Brazil. Based on data released by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, the first quarter of 2012 registered an all-time record high for incoming tourism to Israel.

 

Jerusalem

 

Arab market. Old City of Jerusalem.

 

Western Jerusalem

 

Jerusalem is the most-visited city with 3.5 million tourist arrivals annually. One of the oldest cities in the world, it is the capital, and largest city of Israel if the area and population of occupied East Jerusalem are included. It is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and hosts a myriad of historical, archaeological, religious and sundry other attractions.

East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War and is recognized by the international community as being under Israeli occupation. It is the location of:

The Old City of Jerusalem, traditionally divided into four quarters: Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter and Jewish Quarter. Most importantly, the Temple Mount (known in Arabic as Haram ash-sharīf, the Noble Sanctuary), site of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem with only the Western Wall at its foot remaining, and now with the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Mount of Olives: with its lookout point, Tomb of Absalom, a 2000 year old Jewish cemetery, and churches, Gethsemane, church of all nations, Dominus Flevit, and the Church of Maria Magdalene (Russian orthodox church). Various locations have been proposed as the Tomb of Jesus, traditionally identified as where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands. Nor has Golgotha, the nearby hill where he was crucified been located. Immediately south of the Jewish Quarter lies the City of David with archaeological digs including Hezekiah's Tunnel.

The newer western part of Jerusalem was built mainly after the creation of Israel in 1948. Selected tourist attractions within this area are:

The German Colony, a Temple Society settlement, with a colorful mix of architectural styles.

Mea Shearim, established in the nineteenth century and inhabited largely by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews, retains the flavor of an East European shtetl.

Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.Ein Karem, the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist, is one of the four most visited Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel.

Mt. Zion, the traditional resting place of King David.

Mt. Scopus, site of the Hebrew University and standing at 2710 feet above sea level, offers a panoramic view of the city. Both the Temple Mount and the Dead Sea are visible from this location.

 

Tel Aviv

 

With 2.7 million tourist arrivals in 2011, Tel Aviv is Israel's second-largest city, and a cosmopolitan, cultural and financial global city. The city's greater area is the largest with 3 million inhabitants.

Tel Aviv exhibits a Unesco world heritage area of Bauhaus architecture. The nearby historical city of Jaffa is experiencing a touristic boom. In 2010, National Geographic ranked Tel Aviv as one of the world's ten best beach cities.

Tel Aviv is called the "city that never sleeps" by the locals because of its vibrant nightlife scene. Tel Aviv was named "the gay capital of the Middle East" by the Out magazine.

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